Midfielder Cameron Flint sprinted 40 yards down the field off a faceoff and scored on a low shot 16 seconds into overtime as No. 1 Denver defeated No. 8 Loyola, 13-12, before an announced 2,478 Saturday at Ridley Field.
The goal spoiled a furious comeback by Loyola (9-3, 5-1 ECAC) which trailed 8-3 at the half and had tied the game on a goal from senior midfielder Sean O'Sullivan from 15 yards out with 2:39 left in regulation.
After Flint connected in the sudden-death OT, he was swarmed by teammates near the back of the goal as the Pioneers (10-2, 5-0) didn't just celebrate winning the game, but also snapping a three-game losing streak to the Greyhounds, who eliminated Denver in last year's NCAA quarterfinals.
"After last year, it's a huge win," said Denver coach Bill Tierney, whose team lost all three meetings with Loyola last season. "We don't hide facts from these guys. ... We talk about our opportunities. If you win, you can put yourself in a better situation. Right now, we're going to enjoy this ride. To downplay the significance of this victory would not be enjoying the moment."
It was a statement game for both teams. Before Saturday, Loyola had won five straight, including victories against Georgetown and Ohio State, but they have failed to win against a Top 5 team, having also lost to then-No. 3 Maryland and Duke, which is now No. 2.
"I'm proud of the way our kids came back and responded in second half," Loyola coach Charley Toomey said. "I'm disappointed we would allow a team to get up on us by so many goals, but true to who we are, our kids fought and put us in position to win a game. I'm disappointed but will not let this game define our season."
Denver jumped out to the big early lead by dominating face-offs and catching the Greyhounds flat-footed for several fast-break goals.
On Flint's final run, he bumped Loyola midfielder Blake Burkhart outside the restraining line on the far end of the field after Burkhart failed to pick up a ground ball off the faceoff. Flint scooped up the ball, stayed a step ahead of Loyola's great long pole midfielder Scott Ratliff, then scored without hesitating from barely inside the opposite restraining line.
"On the last play, he missed the ground ball, I just picked it up, sprinted down the field and hoped for the best when I shot it," Flint said. "I knew where I was putting it. I wasn't shooting to great today, so I'm pretty thankful I had one good shot today and stuck it where I wanted to."
Denver midfielder Chase Carraro won 10 of 13 faceoffs in the first half, including going 6 for 6 in the first quarter as the Pioneers jumped out to a 4-1 lead. He finished 18 of 26 on faceoffs.
Denver goalie Ryan LaPlante was also superb, making 18 saves. Usually, Tierney replaces LaPlante with Jamie Faus in the second half, but Faus advised Tierney at halftime to stay with the hot LaPlante. Loyola didn't help itself with some poor placements of shots.
But as strong as Denver was in the first half, Loyola was nearly as dominant in the second. The Greyhounds scored the final three goals of the third period. Freshman attackman Zach Herreweyers scored with 3:54 remaining, and midfielders O'Sullivan (4 goals) and Josh Hawkins each scored in the final two minutes as Loyola cut Denver's lead to 9-7.
The Greyhounds tied the game after two straight goals from Sawyer within a 26 second span late in the fourth quarter before O'Sullivan sent the game into overtime.
Loyola outshot Denver, 30-16, in the second half, and the Greyhounds won 7 of 14 faceoffs in the final two quarters.
"Just another Loyola-Denver game, just another war," Tierney said. "We're blessed to come out on top of this one. We'll be seeing them at least one more, maybe two more times [possibly in the ECAC and NCAA tournaments]. So, kind of déjà vu over again, except we're the ones with the smiles on this one."
Toomey said: "Our guys battled, had an opportunity to pick up the ball at the X, and we didn't get it done. We'll learn from that. It was a great game to come and watch, and on Monday we'll make corrections. We look forward to seeing them again, and I'm sure they feel the same way."